‘I was caged with ‘intense’ Charles Bronson – he hasn’t had a fair chance’

A former gangster who befriended Charles Bronson in prison said he was "really disappointed" but "not surprised" when Britain's most notorious lag was denied release earlier this year.

Stephen Gillen, 52, turned his life around after leaving prison in 2006 and is now CEO of Film, TV and PR firm Roar Media Creative.

But Gillen's life wasn't always like it is now and he spent much of the nineties and early 2000s in some of the UK's most secure lock-ups, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bronson, 70.

READ MORE: ‘I went undercover in prison to catch serial killer – and had 20 life or death fights’

Bronson, who has now changed his name to Charles Salvador, was denied release in March this year following a parole hearing.

He was initially jailed for armed robbery in 1974 and remains behind bars to this day, having had his sentence extended several times due to violent incidents in prison. These include 11 hostage-taking incidents in nine different sieges.

Speaking to The Daily Star, Gillen said: "Look, we have to be accountable for our actions. We’re sent to prison by the court and found guilty, then we go and serve that sentence. That is right.

"But the other premise of that is there should be some kind of rehabilitation, so when we re-enter society, society has a chance as well as the prisoner who has to make that transition.

"This hasn’t happened with Charlie at all… he’s still a Cat A, he’s still in these cages."

Bronson claimed in a voice note to Sky News that he "hates violence" and has been a "model prisoner" for the last decade. Three Parole Board members said they accepted he "genuinely wants to progress and that he is motivated to work towards his release".

For Gillen, Bronson's current treatment "isn't giving him any kind of fair chance" at reintegrating into society.

When handed that chance himself Gillen took it with both hands. He now works in the self-development space and was nominated for an International Peace Prize in 2019. The Monkey Puzzle Tree, Gillen's book about his life, is now being turned into a £36million Hollywood film, and he is about to embark on a UK tour titled Ready To Talk (kicking off in Kingston, London on September 2).

Talking about Bronson the man, Gillen added: "You have to remember now Charlie is a lot older guy. He is a very vibrant, intense person who is actually a great storyteller and artist.

"The other part of that is he’s done so much for charity as well. He doesn’t broadcast that part of it, and that continues."

Gillen will be sharing never-before-heard stories about notorious criminal figures, including Bronson, on his tour.

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